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Jack Priestley’s Family History

This site is a work-in-progress. There is a massive amount to cover. I have included both male and female lines. Keep coming back for more.
I have numbered the generations working backwards from Jack’s as (1)



JOHN HARRISON. We know from the Skipton baptismal register that Thomas Harrison, grazier of Thorlby and Stirton, was the son of John Harrison, late of Manchester, tallow chandler. We know from his marriage licence that this Thomas was born 1749-50. [1]

On the face of it, this seems strange. Even before the Industrial Revolution the movement was usually from the countryside into the town, rather than vice versa. And the change from tallow chandler to grazier also need explanation.

But when young Thomas left Manchester he was not stepping out into the unknown. He was rejoining a line of Harrisons, several of them named Thomas, who had been farming in Thorlby and Stirton for generations. It is very probable that he went to work on his grandparents’ farm where his father had been born.

There is a baptism which nicely bridges this gap.

Baptism. Holy Trinity, Skipton.
1723  May 30. Jno s of Thos Harrison (Farmer) and Margt his wife of Thorlby.

His mother was Margaret Oldfield.

John was the fifth of seven children, two of whom died in infancy. He had three brothers capable of taking over the family farm in Thorlby. He decided instead to become a tallow chandler.

Tallow is the hard rendered fat used to make candles and soap. This is a spin-off from the occupation of graziers like Thomas Harrison. The raw material would be a by-product when the animals were slaughtered. Tallow candles were cheaper than beeswax.

We do not know whether John set out alone to make his living as a tallow chandler in Manchester or whether he was in the employ of an older man.

He seems to have been still single when he left Skipton. No marriage has been found for him, nor the baptisms of any children, in the Skipton area. Online access to the Manchester registers is limited and no marriage has been found for him there either.

We have only the baptism in Manchester on 18 June 1749 for Thomas, son of John Harrison and his wife Ann. We do not know where in Manchester the christening took place. There may be other children yet to be discovered.

Manchester at this time was just a prosperous market town. In the previous century an influx of Flemish settlers had boosted the weaving of fustian. It was not until the invention of the Spinning Jenny in 1764 that the Industrial Revolution took off. Daniel Defoe, writing around 1712, described Manchester as “the greatest mere village in England”, by which he meant that a place the size of a populous market town had no form of local government to speak of, and was still subject to the whims of a lord of the manor.

Early Manchester  [2]

In 1745, Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, entered Manchester with his army en route to London. Despite having a strong Puritan history, the town offered no resistance and the Jacobites obtained enough recruits to form a ‘Manchester Regiment’. As they later retreated back through Manchester, the stragglers were pelted by the mob. The luckless ‘Manchester Regiment’ were left to garrison Carlisle, where they quickly surrendered to the pursuing British Army.


John’s son Thomas did not follow his father as a tallow chandler. Sometime in the 1750s or 60s he left Manchester for Skipton. John’s, father, also Thomas Harrison, had died in 1742. Young Thomas may well have been needed to help his grandmother with the farm.

There is a burial for John Harrison on 2 July 1777 in the Collegiate Church of Manchester which may be his. He would have been 54.



[1] BMDs from Findmypast.
[2] http://school.chethams.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2016/07/History-0.jpg




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